The 6-Week Journey
Photocourtesy: Medium Rare
On November 2012, Teach for Bangladesh became the 27th partner of Teach for All, a growing global network of independent social enterprises. "It is a terrible injustice that so many children in our country are denied the opportunity of an excellent education, simply because of the income level of their parents," says Maimuna Ahmad, CEO and Founder of Teach for Bangladesh. "Teach For Bangladesh was born out of the belief that all children in our country should have an equal opportunity to learn and achieve, and out of the conviction that if given the chance, the brightest and most passionate young leaders of the country would step up to lead a movement towards this vision." For three years Teach for Bangladesh has worked to expand educational opportunity in our country by enlisting the most promising future leaders in the attempt.
"The commitment is to assure global standard quality education like other developed countries in Bangladesh, and for that, systematic changes should be brought up within the system," says Katelyn Runyan-Gless, Director of Leadership Development (TFB). "Education is the base of every problem we face. To embark upon other obstructions we first need to fix the core problem and that's why we want to grant global standard education for each one of our kids."
This year, the Winter Academy-2015 started from November 01 and has continued till December 12. A total of 42 brilliant university graduates and young professionals participated in this year's academy. Throughout their training, these fellows prepared themselves for two years of government school teaching. Their aim is to showcase global education standard and leadership in low income schools in Dhaka. "Winter Academy is a very special part of the Fellowship experience," says Maimuna. She also adds, "It is very intense for Fellows, but it is even more intense for those responsible for planning and executing all of its various components." TFB's dedicated staff had prepared for the academy from August. "This year we ran a very strong Academy, and that is a testament to the hard work of all the Fellows and staff members involved."
Though the Fellows of winter academy-2015 were from diverse educational backgrounds, their goal was almost the same. They aimed to work in the education sector by making teaching plans and policies to eradicate the nationwide disparity in terms of socio-economic status, achievements, career opportunities and others. They were very much committed to teach the basic techniques of learning through the systematic standard plans. They implemented them using multiple intelligence like- different colourful study materials, or sometimes through songs, poems and so on. As children are the future of a country, the Fellows think that they should be nurtured and trained properly to lead the nation and to compete with the global corporate in future.
"I was always interested in social work, and when I got to learn about TFB's approach towards education, I realised this was a perfect match for me," says Mehnaz Aziz, a fellow of the academy, a Master's student of Jahangirnagar University. "Their concern towards building maximum level of interest in education through applied learning process is admirable and takes a lot of never implement in a third world country like ours."
The fellows in the academy worked an inflexible 14 hours every day at a stretch. "We were supposed to get up and finish our breakfast by 7:30 am in the morning, join the sessions, deliver assignments, practice teaching in different schools in the Gazipur area, again attended sessions after lunch and then wrote down the problems we faced in the classroom and figured out the solutions. This went on till 10 every night," says Tahrima Hossain, another Fellow of the academy, a Master's student of Urban and Regional Planning, Jahangirnagar University. According to them, it was a big challenge to take continuous cognitive load to learn and experiment new things every day. Also it was a platform for being punctual, knowing thyself and acting accordingly by coping up with the team.
In the six weeks of their time in the academy, Fellows faced both professional and personal struggle. For which the fellows were assigned to different fellow advisers (FA) who guided them throughout their time in the academy. "Most of the time, they solved them problems by their selves. My job was just to listen," says Nakul Arora, FA and former Teach for India personnel. "In these six weeks, this wonderful bunch has proven their worth in so many levels that it is somewhat inspiring. The discipline that they grasped is something to be proud of."
The fellows were expected to follow a standard systematic plan which is very much dynamic, interesting, effective and long lasting to the students. For example, when they used colourful study materials in classroom which easily matched student's imagination, they paid more attention proportionately to the traditional system. Also, the children were taught to take part in group and individual activities to learn a particular lesson. For mathematics, the Fellows applied techniques for addition, subtraction, multiplication and the division which made better sense to the child mind.
The academy provided trainers who taught these young minds the art of teaching and leadership. From home and abroad, people affiliated with Teach for Bangladesh came to the academy to lend a hand in this process. Trainers also included former fellows. "They are a lot different and a lot more enthusiastic than before," says Afsana Sadiq Atuly, trainer and former Fellow. "Training them has been a privilege. Their enthusiasm showed that they really believed in this cause."
According to the fellows, they actually don't teach the lessons but teach the skills. If a child knows the skills of writings, they can visualise the topic they are given and apply the skills they learnt from their teachers. This is the actual difference between the teaching method of a traditional teacher and a TFB fellow. "We followed our study plans which routinely covered their curriculum. After that, the techniques we teach them are important to be competent for international education system. ", says Hasib, another fellow of the academy at TFB.
In this 6 weeks time span, Fellows have developed themselves as leaders and learned how to replace the negative things into positive ones. "One of the aspects which we all can take away from this training is to receive criticism," says Hasib. "We learned that feedback is a gift, no matter who it comes from." TFB has taught them to except the judgement and try to grow from it. "After some time getting used to this, we would get pretty offended if somebody did not give their feedback."
The Winter Academy-2015 has greatly influenced the mindset of the trainee fellows. According to them, it was a life changing-turning point. They are all charged up to take on their challenges in the two year fellowship programme. Throughout their academy, fellows have learned every aspect of teaching know how. They have all made their vows for implementing global standard education. "There are lots of challenges that we face regarding our quality of education. The fact that these fellows are going out there, trying to overcome these obstacles for the bigger picture is will one day make the Bangladesh we all want to see," says Katelyn. "All of us at TFB have very high expectations for our new Fellows. Personally," says Maimuna. "I hope they will enter their placement schools in January filled with hope, humility, and a hunger to succeed. The students who await them deserve nothing but the very best teachers - teachers who will inspire, challenge and love them and help them reach the heights of their potential."
The first part of the Teach for Bangladesh fellowship ends with the Winter Academy. Now it is time to test these Fellows in the real world. According to them, they can't wait till it starts!